This is a great mac & cheese recipe that I've tasted three times now--once when Jason's co-worker made it, and twice when I made it (after I asked her for the recipe).
It's classic enough that it fulfills all your basic comfort food needs, but it's a little more gourmet and complex than the usual recipe. The secret is the garlic and shallots, which give the flavors more depth.
Susan's recipe insists that the cheese used must be "Tillamook Extra Sharp Vintage White Cheddar" but since that's made here in Washington, I don't know if it's available nationally or not. Anyway, I think the important parts are "extra sharp" and "white" so just look for a cheddar that fits that bill (if you can't find Tillamook).
I used 2 sizes of Cuisinart--a big one to grate the cheese, and a small one for the garlic. This isn't necessary, it just really cuts down on the work of chopping and grating. If you do have access to a food processor, be sure to put the cheddar in the freezer at least 20 minutes beforehand, as this helps it to run through the Cuisinart without sticking.
This is not a low-calorie recipe! But it's a great once-in-a-while treat.
For 4 large servings:
2 tablespoons butter
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 whole shallot bulb (both halves), chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups liquid (whole milk, half & half, or some combination of both)
4 ounces cream cheese (1/2 of one 8 ounce box)
2-3 cups shredded Tillamook Extra Sharp Vintage White cheddar
1/2 cup good blue or gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 cups macaroni
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 7x11 baking dish.
Boil pasta until almost done, drain, and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add garlic and shallot, salt and pepper. Saute until soft and translucent. Add flour, stir to form thick paste and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in liquid. When mixture begins to gently steam, add cream cheese and whisk until combined. Add all shredded cheese and simmer until mixture is totally combined and coats the back of a spoon. Mix and combine with pasta, add to baking dish. Sprinkle blue or gorgonzola cheese over the top and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until bubbling and lightly browned. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. C'est fini!
Art credit: "Cheese Party" from Canyon of Cheese.